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Borderlands

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This image is no indication of how you’ll feel when playing the game. Really.

I’m really late to the party with writing this blog post. In fact, I haven’t played this game in weeks and I was starting to talk myself out of writing about Borderlands. Truth be told, there are more reasons than just the passage of time and forgetting minor details that should be mentioned. I rushed through a lot of this game so I could play the second one (in the middle of doing so, co-op with Steve-O). Also… I’m not really good at FPS games, and therefore not good and reviewing them. But, I’m going to give it a shot!

In Borderlands, you’ve got four playable classes to choose from. I chose to play as a Siren. Not for the talent trees or special ability or gun specialty. No, nothing sensible like that. The Siren is the only female character, so therefore I was going to be her. Borderlands lacks in character customization, by the way. You can’t change your character’s sex or eyebrow thickness or anything like that. All you do is pick which of the four classes you want to be. Not a game changer for me in a first person style game when I never get to see what my character looks like anyway.

When released, Borderlands was hailed as a FPS/RPG hybrid. Reason being are the leveling up system and class trees. Actually, the three specialization choices per character gave it a bit of an old WoW feel for me. Except your options are a bit more straightforward. In one playthrough you’ll probably work your way down one skill tree with a few leftover points to play with. I also didn’t discover until near the end of the game that you can actually recycle your skill points at New-U Stations.

Really, I think my main beef with this game is the UI. It is SO non-intuitive. From browsing your inventory (sucks in splitscreen, and still sucks in the sequel) from shopping to equipping. I really don’t like the layout. I definitely got the impression this was a bad PC port.

Okay, back to my Siren. The Siren’s special ability is called Phaseshift. It allows you to go into an alternate dimension where enemies cannot see you. And you get to run faster! Basically, it is a good runaway button, or “position yourself in front of the enemy’s weakspot” opportunity. Unfortunately, all you can do is run. Shooting or meleeing will take you out of phaseshift which is a wicked bummer. No free potshots for bad shooters like me. As boring as this ability is, I have to admit it came in pretty handy. Especially in single player mode. Gaining access to an enemy’s weak spot is literally a pain in the ass, because that is almost always where their weak spot is! Spider ants are the main culprit. And, like most other enemies in the game, they come at you in droves until you never want to see another one of them ever again. Hard to shoot something in its bulbous butt when it is always coming straight at you.

And then there’s skags. Who, in a shooter game, have bulletproof FACES. So these hyena-esque creatures are running at you full speed and your only hope of doing substantial damage is to shoot them in their pie-hole when they open it to take a chunk outta you! Or get lucky with a grenade, and stuff like that never happens for me. Most of the time I used phaseshift to position myself behind a badass or alpha and pound away at its fleshy hindquarters.

Phaseshift as a runaway button was super helpful to me. Enemies have ridiculously fast respawn timers. And, as I mentioned, they come at you by the dozens. Most of my time was spent clearing an area, looting, moving forward to do plot quest, then backtracking less than half an hour later to have to spend another 15-20 minutes killing the bandits and psychos all over again. Instead of wasting all that time on low level enemies that don’t level with you (an RPG pet peeve of mine) I’d phaseshift and run through them as best I could. Because ain’t nobody got time for that.

As there are a decent variety of enemies that all manage to get on your nerves (I haven’t even mentioned the flying rakks >.>), to shake things up there are elemental damage types. Different enemy types have different weaknesses, naturally. I was hoping for a Dead Island sort of customization option to add desired elements to my favorite gun types. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. You have to rely on the random loot chests, drops, and shop options. And, as Murphy’s Law guarantees, you won’t ever get the weapon you want when you want it. At least the shops cycle through inventory, but I’m sure you can guess I didn’t have the time or patience to quit and reload the game while crossing my fingers for a desirable weapon. Also, there is no personal stash to tuck away weapons you like but aren’t currently useful, you have limited inventory space, and at maximum you get four weapon slots which are unlocked over time.  Not an ideal system, IMO.

Personally, I had a hard time using anything besides a sniper rifle and a shotgun. I’m bad at shooters, so I have a hard time dealing with 20 psychos on fire running toward me simultaneously. So I would snipe as many enemies from far away, giving me time to hopefully pick off the crazies storming me. The rest of the bandits and such would be standing behind and shooting at me, which I prefer. Then I’d pick them off from a safe distance. Or, if I got frustrated with their dancey dance routines, I’d recklessly storm them with a shotgun. With shotguns I don’t have to worry so much about aiming as I do pulling the trigger in something’s gut. Then, just when you think you’ve killed everything, MORE enemies come out of the woodwork. Usually from right behind you.

This is how I spent hours of my life. Some of it was fun, some of it not.

Borderlands is all about hunting down and opening a legendary Vault. Everyone who comes to Pandora (most overused word EVER) in search of said Vault is referred to as a “Vault Hunter.” AKA- The Player. Your quest for the Vault will lead you through a large desert world with its fair share of mines, dungeons, and bandit encampments to raid. The world didn’t particularly stand out to me one way or the other. At some points it is exciting and fresh, other times it is drab and boring. What really brought the world to life were the outlandish characters (who get even more over-the-top in the second installment!). You’ve got incestuous rednecks and blind old men making inappropriate jokes at every opportunity. Most of the characters exist to give you fetch and/or kill side quests for leveling. But I kept going back for the bad humor!

About plot; it’s there but not there. Basically, you spend the whole game acquiring keys to open the Vault and *SPOILER* you open the Vault and… well, I was pretty disappointed with the ending. In fact, while playing Borderlands 2 I got the impression they were writing backwards to make up for the lack of depth, explanation and satisfaction people like me who actually play games for story got from Borderlands. No, the only satisfaction you’ll get is from the silly side missions and wanton murdering of basically everything as there are few civilized humans to speak of. Assuming you’re the one performing the wanton murdering. Which is hard when you’re playing single player against 20 psychos who kamikaze when they approach you, or a boss with hundreds of adds running around.

General rule of thumb: Borderlands bosses will have adds. Lots of them. I suspect they *might* exist to assist the player with taking advantage of the Second Wind feature: when your HP is deleted, you’ll enter a last chance mode. If you manage to kill something (without being able to swap weapons or use your scope) you’ll escape death! However, the adds were usually the reason I was dying so much. Therefore, I’m leaning more towards the developers not having more creative ways of making the boss fights difficult.

There are a lot of little annoying things about this game that have mostly been fixed in the sequel. Steve-O doesn’t know it yet, but I am charging him with writing a comparison piece between the two games as he has played with multiple characters and spent much more time in the universe than I have. From what I’ve seen of Borderlands 2, I strongly suggest you opt out of the first one if you haven’t already played it and delve into the superior experience that is the sequel. Unless you’re way more into FPS games than I am, or really like open world exploration games (and play with friends or online) I don’t recommend you take the time to play Borderlands.

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